By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
Two of Thailand’s goals, in the 28th and 53rd minutes, were scored by Kanjana Sung-Ngoen, who also helped the Kingdom reach the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Silawan Intamee scored the third goal in the 62nd minute.
Thailand finished second in Group A after one defeat (4-0 to China) and two wins, including a 6-1 trouncing of Jordan, and joined leader China in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup for the first time in 23 years.
Their last semi-final appearance was in Hong Kong in 1986, when they finished third following a 3-0 win over Indonesia. Thailand will take on the winners from Group B on April 17 at the King Abdullah II Stadium in Amman, while China will face the Group B runner-up.
Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian, who also guided the team to the 2015 World Cup finals, was relieved to have made the finals for the second time in a row.
“The pressure has finally subsided. Reaching the World Cup finals has been our goal from the beginning. But before that we need to develop our team at the Asian level first. Thank you to all the fans for their support here in the stadium and back home in Thailand,” said the 46-year-old coach.
“Kanjana is an experienced player who always shows her potential in tough situations.”
The win was also a big relief for team manager Nualphan Lamsam, who had offered her players a Bt20-million incentive if they reached next year’s World Cup finals.
“In my 10 years as team manager, I felt the most pressure before this match,” she said.
“In fact we needed just a draw to finish second in the group. I’m happy now and would like to extend this happiness for fans during the Songkran Festival.”
The three goals scored by the Thais also earned the team a Bt3-million bonus because Thai football chief Somyot Poompanmuang had vowed to give them an extra Bt1 million for every goal they scored against the Philippines.
“I’d like to congratulate and extend my support to the team for keeping on fighting to achieve their goal. Thank you for bringing fame and smiles to the people of Thailand,” Somyot said.